Don’t Call Me Evie

In an article in the latest Weekly Standard, essayist and frequent contributor Mr Joseph Epstein complains of the current habit of addressing complete strangers by their first names. He cites as an annoying example a recent reply email from the editor of the TLS in which he was addressed as Joseph. In support of his preference for a bit more formality, he cites the example of Evelyn Waugh:

 The novelist Evelyn Waugh, a famously irascible character, upon his return from a trip to Goa, wrote to his friend Nancy Mitford: “I can bear only intimacy, really, & after that formality or servility. The horrible thing is familiarity.” I am myself not big on servility, and I don’t mind formality, but I’m with Waugh on familiarity, at least when it’s unearned.

In the letter (18 February 1953) Waugh had told Nancy Mitford that he had found the Indians “much more servile than most foreigners,” and then went on to place that character fault into context with others (Letters, p. 392).

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